By Peter Clark

Bruce Yandle’s concept of Bootleggers and Baptists explains how seemingly opposing groups/individuals join forces for a single cause. The Bootleggers stand to gain from advocating the assumed policy position. The Baptists provide moral justification for the policy stance. It is always assumed that these seemingly impossible coalitions need to be comprised of two factions. However, why can’t a single group or individual be a Bootlegger and a Baptist? The individual or group assuming a “dual-actor” role in supporting a specific position.

The idiomatic expression “it takes two to tango” is not a hard and fast rule for Bootleggers and Baptists coalition building dynamics. A single economic agent can possess multiple motives for their actions, opinions, or desires. The possibility of subordinate motives lurking the background provides some credence to this postulation. For example, an individual can donate to charity out of concern for the poor. Simultaneously, also want to donate to charity because it fosters a positive public image. Making the philanthropic citizen both a Bootlegger and Baptist. This alignment of opposing motives is analogous to a coalition being formed between the psychoanalytical ID and Superego. This can apply to individuals and the aggregate motives of the group.


This idea is very much in the spirit of Thomas Schelling, but in addition to having "multiple selves" over time (Schelling's idea), an actor can also have (if you are correct) multiple selves and motives at the same time!

F.E. Guerra-Pujol · 26 Jul, 2020
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Peter Clark



Published: 24 Jul, 2020

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